RIO HATO, Panama – Less than one year ago, Alvaro Venegas was like many people in that he didn’t know much about the country of Panama other than its famous canal.
“I believe that needs to change,’’ said Alvaro Venegas, a native of Spain who has spent the past several months as general manager of the Buenaventura Golf Club here in Rio Hato, Panama. “In the short time I’ve been living in this country, I’ve realized the amazing things that Panama has to offer visitors, including its biodiversity, mountains, rainforests, beautiful islands and beaches, and the best of both worlds having access to the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.’’
The resort’s location puts guests in close proximity to popular beaches, such as Playa Blanca and El Faro, as well as outdoor adventures, from hiking to four-wheel driving tours.
“Before the pandemic, we had a steady flow of visitors at the Buenaventura Golf Club and sister property, Santa Maria Golf Club,’’ said Venegas, who came from Real Club de Golf Guadalmina in Marbella, Spain, where he was director of golf operations.
“Our visitors would enjoy a minimum of four days at our property, especially from Thursday to Sunday, where they took advantage of playing at both Jack Nicklaus design golf courses – the only ones in Central America. We hope that now with the reactivation of flights with the U.S. and Canada, we will see an increase in golf visitors.
“The Ministry of Tourism has a great product to offer to the world and a great potential to become a top golf destination among golf aficionados in America and Europe. Tocumen International Airport has great connected flights with both continents.
Buenaventura Golf Club, managed by Troon Golf, is an outstanding 7,383-yard (from the tips) layout created by the Nicklaus Design Group that plays around hundreds of mature Corotú trees. The course has some a few narrow fairways, but in general, its Platinum Paspalum fairways are generous, forgiving and dotted with beach bunkers and lush Central American vegetation.
“However, the real challenge of our golf course is the breeze found in the holes closest to the ocean during the summer months and the 11 lakes that surround 15 of the 18 holes – strategically placed that only Jack Nicklaus could have imagined,’’ Venegas said. “We receive many visitors from the U.S. and Canada that come to play golf, and having a golf course like ours, designed by Jack Nicklaus, helps us to be placed on the map as a golf destination.’’
Panama has only nine golf courses, Venegas said, the game is growing the country, which has a population of approximately 4.3 million.
“I believe this is the result of the great effort APAGolf (Panama Golf Association) is doing to promote and create a foundation so that many more players can try this sport,’’ said Venegas. “We support the local golf courses in the best possible way – and put ourselves at the service of APAGolf to further promote Panama as a great golf destination.
“Creating a golf destination is not something easy to do. It requires the involvement of many local institutions. A single golf course cannot create a destination. We need support from the Ministry of Tourism, Visit Panama, and a strong alliance between all the local golf courses. There’s is potential to become a top Central America golf destination, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.’’
Buenaventura Golf Club certainly is doing its part.